an open letter to president obama

president obama,

first, please allow me to congratulate you. your victory has ennobled and inspired more people--both here and around the world--than you can know.

that said, i am writing to express my respectful disagreement with your decision to not release photographs of potential victims of abuse in iraq.

unlike mr. wise, i hesitate to call the release "needless" and, far from agreeing with your decision, feel the need to challenge it.

war, by definition, is an unsafe practice. the only thing that would make our troops and iraqi civilians safe(r) is if they were not fighting a war. the attitudes of mr. wise and others who would agree with him put american lives above iraqi lives, giving both sides the potential to mistake highly visible minorities (our worst soldiers, their fundamentalist militants) for representatives of entire nations full of diverse people, opinions, and beliefs.

mr. president, if we are not fighting dirty, we have nothing to hide. if we are, then the people have a right to know what these soldiers feel they need to do--or are being ordered or pressured to do--in order to "win". as a student of history, i'm sure you know that abu ghraibs are rarely isolated incidents in wartime, they are simply the ones that give the others a name.

we cannot uphold life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness within our own borders, then go abroad and behave in a manner diametrically opposed to that principle.

i'm also not sure who told mr. wise that we had a "bond of trust" with the iraqi people. in more isolated areas where fighting has been rare, that may have been and still might be true. but i've listened to enough independent news sources to know that many iraqis have been wary of us from the beginning, and whatever trust we engendered was eroded when we began to act as any other occupying nation would.

the war itself has given propagandists all they need to demonize america. if a set of pictures that will likely come out anyway could be a tipping point--both here and abroad--then we need to examine why we're doing what we're doing, and what our actions say about the discrepancy between this nation's ideals and its reality. whenever we engage in war, the people should be fully informed of the cost of that war, especially when the peculiar grace of geography and technology do not allow us to observe it up close.

you have already shown far more tact and intelligence than your predecessor; for that, i and many others are grateful. indeed, your outspokenness about the prison at guantanamo bay is laudable. but this war was a mistake from the beginning, and many people knew it. it is time to stop the lies and the obfuscation of the truth, admit our mistakes, and do whatever we can to bring our troops home.

once again, thank you, mr. president, for all you are doing. in the future i hope that i will be able to silently praise and commend your efforts far more often than i am urged to be demonstratively disappointed by them.



p.s. - i am the daughter of a vietnam vet who is still dealing with many of the physical and emotional consequences of that war. my grandfather passed on still bearing scars from his time in the second world war. i sincerely hope that mr. wise and anyone else who claims to be on the side of military families does not simply follow orders as they're given, but also seeks to repair the very broken VA system, reduce the number of military suicides, and work for peace to keep our troops from unnecessary harm.

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